Fyrish is situated on the Corentyne Coast 10.9 miles from New Amsterdam and close to three miles from Rose Hall Town. Also called Number Three, it is flanked by Courtland (Number Two), Kilcoy (Number Four – western section) and Chesney (Number Four – eastern section). Its residents are a mixture of people of African and East Indian descent.
When I arrived, some young men were gathered at a shop playing pools, but many other persons were attending their respective churches. At one home a father and his son worked assiduously fetching in bags of feed. Leah Sampson, their mother and grandmother, sat under the house looking on. Another of her sons lay in a hammock nearby reading the week’s featured village in the ‘World Beyond Georgetown’ column.
Sampson shared her concern at not having seen Fyrish featured last year when it was due to be published. However, shortly after that visit, I was robbed of my bag containing my camera with all of the village’s photos, my notes and telephone numbers and I explained this. Understanding what had taken place, she willingly did a second interview.
Sampson, now 75 years old, was born at Number One Village but moved to Fyrish after she got married; her husband is now deceased. Back then, the village was not as populated at it is today.
“When I come here they had a red brick road. Time like now, you want water you got to walk and go get water. People used to go from here and from Chesney and even Rose Hall to Number One to get water. Because so much people used to want water, sometimes you got to wait until one in the afternoon before you get you water. We used the flambeau and kerosene lamp for light back then,” Sampson said. Today everyone in the village has access to potable water and electricity.
Sampson has six children, all of whom attended Fyrish nursery and primary schools.
Today, one of her sons farms the lot next door. “My big son does the farming. After his father got ill, he left his police job and started farming,” she said.
The woman also said that the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) arranges for the canal to be cleaned once a month, while the drains are cleaned and the parapets weeded as necessary. Sometimes, Sampson said, the workers, realizing she needs the grass in her yard cut, would go ahead and do it for free.
She also lauded the NDC for its community and charitable work, noting that at the end of the year it donates food hampers to the elderly in the area. And speaking about food, Sampson said that since neighbouring Chesney has bigger businesses, she goes there to purchase her groceries.
Maxwell Hooper moved to Fyrish in December last year from Number One Village. But he is no stranger to the village.
The man said he had heard that the village was centuries old and connected to the slaves, but he did not know any more than that.
A farmer, he boasted that the best mangoes and ground provisions on the market are grown in Fyrish. Hooper plants ground provisions along with pumpkin and cash crops. Crops grow all around his house. In a wooden box, there was a batch of new poi callaloo. Disappearing for less than a minute, Hooper returned with some huge red bora.
As mentioned earlier, Hooper was no stranger to the village and before he lived there would venture into it village often. “Fyrish produced some brilliant people; love was the foundation of the village. Back in the olden days the elderly people would call out to you, like, ‘Hi, you’re Leila son. Come bai, come’ and they would give you cassava bread, sometimes buns, plantain, whatever they had. They always had something nice to offer you,” he reminisced.
The people of Fyrish, he said, have always been “cool” adding that they are not “problem makers”. Most of the men in the village work at the Albion Sugar Estate, but of recent people are becoming involved in farming again. “The backdam is being destroyed by salt water. The salt water is what caused everybody to run away from the backdam. For some time now the NDIA [National Drainage and Irrigation Authority] is trying to provide better drainage and irrigation to prevent this,” he said.
Hooper said he could not seem to find any disadvantages to living in Fyrish. He said anyone living in the village will benefit from having fresh produce from the farms around, fresh fish and meat and the opportunity of living among peaceful people.
“Myself, my mom, her parents and their parents were all born in Fyrish,” Ursilla Marks said. “I called my grandmother ‘Sister’ and my great grandmother ‘Ma Brown’.”
We sat across from her wooden box oven which she gets going every Friday to bake bread for her Sabbath on Saturdays. She attends the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Courtland.
Fyrish, Marks said, was predominantly East Indian. Her parents had migrating to the United Kingdom and left she and her five siblings with their grandparents when they were very young. They attended the Fyrish Congregational School which was run by the church under headmaster Richard H. Semple.
Though she did not want to be photographed, she shared her bit about the olden days. “They don’t have play days now – everybody eyes glue on the television. Those days we skipped and played rounders. Our play days was mostly physical activities. We played ‘Enter the Hole’ [called Gam today]. Those who could, would buy marbles from the Bacchus Store which was next to the school, but the poor children like us use ‘wara’; we played sal-out and hopscotch.”
The woman further added that no one knew about gas stoves and the fireside was what they cooked on. Cassava was the multi-use provision. The juice was used to make starch while the cassava was baked (by drying) on galvanized sheets in the sun without the use of fire. It was also used to make cassava pone and quinches which she loved having.
“We hadn’t flush toilets. We had what was called a latrine that we washed with Jeyes fluid to keep it clean. Things have changed considerably.
“The rules were that no decent girl would talk to a boy on the road. Even if they were plans for them to get married, any serious young man would come to her home if he wanted to talk to her. The Indians however, had match weddings. I’ve lived to see all those principles washed away,” she said.
Marks has lived in England but returned for the sake of living the ‘Guyanese life’. She recalled that whenever she visits her relatives there, you were always indoors. When it came to taking elevators, she would take the stairs wanting her fair bit of exercise.
“Life here is healthier,” she concluded.